English Cottages Rock!

So much of the time, our Regency stories evolve in the settings of the elegant mansions, grand townhouses and large country estates of the rich aristocrats who people the stories. There’s good reason for that, for certainly the elegance helps the romance! But lately I’ve been on a “cottage kick”.

There are two reasons for this (besides just that English cottages can be so adorable) One is that my current WIP has my high-born hero stranded in a very small and lowly village (at Christmas, no less) which is all farms and small village houses except for the local manor and the vicarage, of course. The other is rocks. Yes, I said rocks.

In view of the current fad for painted rock “fairy houses” that people are putting in their gardens, I agreed to paint some for my church’s Holiday Bazaar in December. Do you know how hard it is to find good rocks with a shape that lends itself to becoming a cottage? Even for fairies?

My tendency is to go for thatched roofs and the often-crooked charm that comes from centuries of standing in a lovely English garden. I’d show you some of mine if any were finished yet!! LOL. But I have collected a lot of cottage pictures to inspire my efforts, and I thought I’d share some.

I’m not going to turn this into a research post or talk about how very different in style and materials the cottages can be in every different area of Great Britain. There is no such thing as a “definitive” English cottage style unless you consider the “picturesque” revival movement that began towards the end of the Regency period. At that point, architects including Nash pondered what elements made up “cottage style” and purposely designed new homes to capture that charm. I just thought it would be fun to share a little overview!

This is a short post (having some health issues, sorry!!) YOUR turn! How romanticized is my view? Which cottages do you like best?  One of these is NOT in the U.K. –I wonder if you can spot the “fake”? Are you into any of the current painted rocks trends? (Fairy houses being only one of many going around.) Finally, a lovely rock house (painted by someone else).

If/after someone guesses the “fake”, I’ll post in the comments where some of these are to be found! Or perhaps you’ll recognize some of them!







Posted in Frivolity, Places, Risky Book Talk | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Animal Characters and a Sale!

One Grey Seal looking. Located Newquay, Cornwall, UK.

A lot of my favorite romance authors include animals in their romances. In Regencies, we often have horses, but other animals, usually pets, can add fun to a story. Laura Kinsale usually (always?) includes some sort of “mascot animal” in her books, including a horse, a gyrfalcon, a shark, and a pig. Mary Jo Putney is a cat lover and many of her books include cats.

There are almost always named horses in my books, and some of my characters have had pets. I included goldfinches, a hedgehog, and a pony in Lady Dearing’s Masquerade, since there were so many children in that story who would enjoy them. In Saving Lord Verwood, the hero gives the heroine a kitten as a wedding present and later gives her the more practical gift of a mare to ride. Later, he also lets her talk him into rescuing an orphaned seal pup, which they later release back into the wild.

I got the idea for that story element after a visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a fun place to visit and learn about wildlife rescue. People at the center helped me figure out plausible ways for my characters to care for the baby seal.

Saving Lord Verwood by Elena GreeneThis month, I’m running a 99 cent ebook sale of Saving Lord Verwood, with my share of the proceeds going to the Sea Life Trust which runs the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and other sea life centers.

Saving Lord Verwood is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Apple, and Kobo.

If you’d like to donate directly, just visit the Sea Life Trust website.

Do you enjoy animal characters in Regency romance? What are some of your favorites?


Posted in Risky Book Talk, Writing | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Animal Characters and a Sale!

The Dark Side of the Metropolis

First of all: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I forgot to post yesterday! I was busy putting the finishing touches to Yuletide Truce, one of my Victorian holiday stories, which will be released later this year, so I’d be able to send it to my beta readers. I did send it to my beta readers last night (and of course, I’m now convinced they’ll hate me after reading the manuscript) (but hey, that’s a vast improvement over thinking my manuscript might prove fatal for my poor editor!!!)

Aigee, from Yuletide Truce, by Sandra SchwabAigee (short for Alan Garmond), one of the main characters in Yuletide Truce, has grown up in one of the poorest districts of London, before he was apprenticed to a bookseller at age eleven. He is torn between his new life and his old, and he often returns to his childhood haunts.

So, not surprisingly, for this story, I looked at some of the darker aspects of Victorian London, and one book in particular proved to be enormously helpful in finding out about the poorer population: Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.

Mayhew was one of the co-founders of Punch (yes, we always come back to Punch, don’t we *grins*), though he severed the ties with the magazine only four years later. In 1849, the editors of another periodical, The Morning Chronicle, invited him to write a series about the working people of London under the title of “Labour and the Poor.” These articles formed the basis for an extended three-volume study, namely London Labour and the London Poor.

Henry Mayhew
Henry Mayhew, from Wikipedia

Mayhew’s work is in many ways ground-breaking — not just because he threw light on a class of people who were so often forgotten, but also because interviews made up the bulk of his articles. Through him we get to hear the voices of the streetsellers, the old-clothes dealers, the mudlarks, the omnibus drivers, and chimney sweeps. He let them talk about their jobs, their everyday lives, their hopes and dreams. One of the streetsellers Mayhew introduces is the muffin man:

“The street sellers of muffins and crumpets rank among the old street-tradesmen. It is difficult to estimate their numbers, but they were computed for me at 500, during the winter months. They are for the most part boys, young men, or old men, and some of them infirm. […]

I did not hear of any street seller who made the muffins or crumpets he vended. […] The muffins are bought of the bakers, and at prices to leave a profit of 4d. in 1s. […] The muffin-man carries his delicacies in a basket, wherein they are well sweathed in flanne, to retain the heat: ‘People like them war, sir,’ an old man told me, ‘to satisfy theym they’re fresh, and they almost always are fresh; but it can’t matter so much about their being warm, as they have to be toasted again: I only wish good butter as a sight cheaper, and that would make the muffins go. Butter’s half the battle.’

A sharp London lad of fourteen, whose father had been a journeyman baker, and whose mother (a widow) kept a small chandler’s shop, gave me the following account:

‘I turns out with muffins and crumpets, sir, in October, and continues until it gets well into the spring, according to the weather. I carries a fustrate article; werry much so. If you was to taste ’em, sir, you’d say the same. […] If there’s any unsold, a coffee-shop gets them cheap, and puts ’em off cheap again next morning. My best customers is genteel houses, ’cause I sells a genteel thing. I likes wet days best, ’cause there’s werry respectable ladies what don’t keep a servant, and they buys to save themselves going out. We’re a great conwenience to the ladies, sir — a great conwenience to them as likes a slap-up tea. […]'”

(Can somebody pass me a warm muffin, now, please?) (And we’re talking English muffins, of course, a type of small, flat, round bread, rather than the cake-like American muffins.)

Posted in Food, Research | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on The Dark Side of the Metropolis

On Research & Rabbit Holes

I know you understand the issues –I think all of us here tend to be research geeks. Sometimes it’s hard to pull ourselves away from the endless journey of searching out more information, more fascinating details –just a little more time, or just one more day…. Not everyone gets it. Back in the days before the Internet (I know, I’m old) I was so lost in the pages of the London Times from 1813, peering at the screen of one of those God-awful microfiche scanning machines in a library basement, I forgot one child’s orthodontist appointment, a whole afternoon, plus dinner, and oh boy, the looks I got when I finally went home!!!

The Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. So much is now available at our fingertips, but there are so many more rabbit holes to fall down!! Those were less likely to occur in the pre-Internet days. When I could only get information I needed for The Captain’s Dilemma (orig pub date 1995) by traveling to England and visiting special libraries (both military and civilian), you can bet I stayed on point for pretty much every minute I was over there! No rabbit holes. But the time thing, well, that was still an issue. Traveling alone was a blessing so there were no dinner appointments to make or other people’s schedules to accommodate. I guess there’s never enough time, no matter which way we research!

But now if we’re lost in the wonderful feast of Internet information, we may not even notice we’re down a rabbit hole until we’re pretty far down, LOL!  Does anyone else think the ease of Internet surfing has made research even more addictive?

Not to mention things like Pinterest!! How many of you have Pinterest boards set up for details of clothing, heroes, heroines, ideas for cover art, period room décor, views that inspire you –do I need to list more? Totally addictive. Every time Pinterest sends me an email with “suggestions” for my boards, I try to delete it, I really do. And sometimes succeed. But sometimes I just-can’t-stop-myself! My finger hovers, then clicks the fatal button and there goes a precious half-hour or more. But sometimes I find really helpful pictures that somehow escaped previous discovery.

For The Magnificent Marquess, I set up a board on Pinterest to collect pictures of East Indian artifacts that Lord Milbourne might have in his London townhouse after living in India. So many beautiful things!! They inspired me but I had to be careful not to put them all into the story!! (It’s called East Indian design, under Gail Eastwood-Stokes.) Here’s the link if you want to explore: https://www.pinterest.com/eastwoodstokes/east-indian-designs/ (Be warned, there’s 226 pictures!)

However, I’ve discovered readers can be interested in these things too. Am I the last one to figure this out? I just did a tea party with Cerise DeLand and Susana Ellis where I posted this silver tea pot  very similar to one my marquess uses in the story. I was astonished by all the love!! But then, I loved it, so why wouldn’t others?

On Facebook I’ve posted this picture of some gorgeous Indian teacups that were too beautiful not to use in the book. Just for fun, here’s the excerpt from fairly early in The Magnificent Marquess where both these cups and the silver teapot similar to the one above make their appearance.

The hero is serving tea to the heroine (I can’t explain why without giving spoilers):  “I must compliment you on your fetching ensemble,” Lord Milbourne said, picking up the silver teapot and pouring tea into one china cup. Was he fighting a smile? She could not quite tell. “It is so fitting to the occasion, for one thing. If I had a wife, I would make certain to take down the name of your modiste.”
Now he was openly roasting her! Apparently she was not already miserable enough. He added milk and sugar to her cup without asking, and held it out to her. She moved to the tea table and took the cup from him in suffering silence. She took a biscuit, although she was not certain she would be able to swallow anything solid, with her heart in her throat. He poured a glass of brandy for himself.
“Ah-h. One of the smaller but no less happy benefits of the war being over,” he said, holding the glass up and taking a deep, appreciative sniff. “Please, do sit. Otherwise I shall feel obliged to remain standing. In the company of a lady, and all.”
She dropped into the nearest chair, biting her lip. What he must think of her now! His tone said it all. How silly of her mother to have feared that she would ruin her sister’s chances with her blue-stocking ways! She had done a far more thorough job of it now, in a way her mother could never, ever, have imagined.
She sipped the tea, just now noting how exquisite the cup was. A little taller than usual, it was made of thin white porcelain and decorated so thickly with gold leaves, flowers, and vines that at first glance it appeared to be made of gleaming solid gold. The tea set on the table, too, at first appeared to be beautifully made but conventional in shape and design. It was only when she looked closer that she realized the silver pieces were covered with the same sorts of natural motifs she had seen on the walls and carved screens. The knobs and spout supports were flowers. Had every single thing in the house been brought with him from India?

I was tempted to make this post chock full of pictures from my East Indian Pinterest board –be glad I spared you (even though most of them are stunning!!). If you look there, just know you have to scroll down past all the weapons (Lord Milbourne has a collection of those on his library wall). Even some of those are pretty amazingly beautiful!

What are your research time and rabbit hole challenges? I refuse to call them weaknesses!! J It all goes to enrich our stories and reading pleasures, right?



Posted in Research, Risky Book Talk, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on On Research & Rabbit Holes

House Hunters, Lake District Style

I just returned home from the Number One London tour of the Lake District. What a fabulous time! We saw vistas like this:

And this:

What an inspirational trip! I just so happen to be starting a new book and I can set the book anywhere in England, so why not the Lake District?

The Lake District was a popular destination for English travelers during the Regency, perhaps because Europe was closed to them or maybe it was because William Wordsworth wrote a guidebook popularizing the place.

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, and with his sister Dorothy, settled in Dove Cottage in Grasmere, soon to be joined by a wife, the wife’s sister, and three out of their five children. We visited Dove Cottage and, while it had a charming exterior, inside it was dark and small. There were only three bedrooms, one for the Wordsworth and his wife, one for Dorothy, and one for the children. The poor sister-in-law slept sometimes with the children, sometimes with Dorothy and sometimes in a cot in the sitting room, if none of Wordsworth’s frequent guests were visiting.

It was pretty clear to me that my book would not put my hero and heroine in such a small, dismal house.

Another choice was a castle. We visited Sizergh Castle, a residence of the Strickland family since 1239. This house was quite atmospheric, with dark oak panelling and oak carved fireplaces and winding castle-like staircases.

Or perhaps a stately Georgian house would be a better fit. We also visited Dalemain House.

With its beautiful gardens.

Decisions. Decisions.

What do you think?

(By the way, this was only a fraction of the wonderful sights we saw in the Lake District)

Posted in Places, Regency, Research | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Queer in the Regency: a Slice of Once-Hidden LGBT History

How much do you know about LGBT history during the Regency period? Today we offer you a guest post by writer Graham Stokes (who happens to be Risky Gail Eastwood’s son).

 As most of you probably know, June is LGBT Pride Month. The month is generally filled with gregarious celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Riots which occurred on June 28, 1969 and launched the modern LGBT rights movement as it is known today. But the history of the LGBT community goes back much farther than that. Here’s a glimpse of it specifically during the Regency period.

To start, let’s talk terms. Of the words that make up the acronym LGBT, only the word “lesbian” was used in the Regency with the same meaning as it has today. Even though we’ve used “queer” in our post title, it actually just meant weird or deviant back then, without any specifically sexual connotation. Homosexuals were known as “mollies”. Some sources say this was an evolution of 18th century slang when a “Molly” meant an effeminate man.

In the British Empire, not only was homosexual behavior between men still illegal in the Regency era, it still carried the possibility of a death sentence. Homosexual and transgender people were forced into hiding. Taverns, coffee houses, and other businesses that could provide cover for them were called “molly houses”.

Molly houses were primarily establishments where men could meet other men –or male prostitutes, a practice that was increasingly common by the Regency period –for sexual encounters. However, these houses were also the hub of what little community there was for LGBT people.  Cross-dressing was commonplace inside molly houses. Some outdoor locations, such as public toilets and certain public parks and thoroughfares, became known as “molly markets” but served much the same purpose as molly houses.

For convenience (of the authorities), pillories were often built near these places, because of how frequently offenders were placed in them. Ironically, this meant that pillories often became an identifier of a place where a molly market might be, rather than a deterrent from seeking one.

Early in 1810, James Cook and someone named Yardley (full name unknown) opened a molly house on Vere Street called the White Swan. Both men would later claim they had wives and kids, were completely straight, and were only operating the molly house for the money. On July 8, less than six months after the White Swan opened, Bow Street Runners raided the place.

This Vere Street coterie, as it was called, was reported in every newspaper. Twenty-seven men were arrested, though only eight were prosecuted and convicted for the crime of buggery. Six of them, convicted only of “attempted sodomy” (a subset of the umbrella term “buggery”), were pilloried in the Haymarket on September 27. A large and unruly crowd came out to watch the punishment and hurl things –reportedly including dead cats –at the “mollies”. The city was forced to deploy 200 armed constables to prevent anything worse from happening.

The following spring, on March 7, 1811, 46-year old John Hepburn and 16-year old drummer boy Thomas White –both convicted of engaging in the actual act of sodomy –were hung despite neither of them being present at the White Swan at the actual time of the raid. The lawyer Robert Holloway would write a book about the incident, published in 1813, entitled The Phoenix of Sodom.

This would not be the end of the scandal stirred up by the Vere Street coterie. The Weekly Dispatch reported that the Reverend John Church had been performing false marriages between the male clients of the White Swan. The rumors are, at this point, unprovable but the modern LGBT community of the UK claims John Church performed the first same-sex marriages in England. For his part, Reverend Church denied the accusations, claiming they had been started by his rivals in the clergy. He took legal action against the Weekly Dispatch to ensure such stories were not reported again.

However, in 1816, Church became involved in another scandal when he was arrested on charges and this time convicted of attempted sodomy. The trial took more than a year. Upon the news of the verdict, a large crowd burned an effigy of him at his church, the Obelisk Tabernacle. Rev. Church was sentenced to two years in prison. He resumed his career as a minister after his release, and was not involved in any more scandals afterwards.

The validity of the accusations against Church is certainly questionable, as false accusations of sodomy were not unheard of. In his memoirs, radical speaker Henry Hunt recalled the supporters of his opponents frequently heckling him with remarks that suggested he was engaging in buggery. In 1811, the Lord Bishop of Clogher, Percy Jocelyn, was accused of “committing unnatural acts with another man” by a man named James Byrne. The Bishop took legal action against the accusations that he stated were false.

Given a lack of evidence to support the accusations, and considering the Bishop’s membership in the Society for the Suppression of Vice –an organization responsible for many raids on molly houses –the court sentenced Byrne to three floggings and two years in prison. Byrne nearly died from the first two floggings, so he recanted his accusation and the third flogging was canceled.

 Byrne’s accusations, however, had not been forgotten by 1822, when Bishop Percy Jocelyn was caught in the act of buggering a soldier named John Moverly. The ensuing scandal, taking into account the bishop’s hypocrisy and high social standing, was so vicious that the moral superiority of every clergyman in England was called into question. The scandal reverberated throughout society. Lord Castlereagh’s suicide less than a month afterwards is said now to have been because he was being blackmailed for “preferring men.” As for the Bishop, he was fortunate to have the means to escape from England to France. 


France had decriminalized sodomy in 1791, and when Napoleon created a new penal code in 1810 he carried over the entire lack of laws banning sodomy. As a result, Paris became something of a “hot spot” for homosexual and transgender individuals. No laws existed to protect them, and the behavior was certainly not accepted, but Bishop Percy Jocelyn was still able to take up residence in Paris under his own name and was welcomed into French society. Indeed, the entire French Empire was something of a different, freer experience for homosexual people than it was anywhere else in the world.

Details about life as a homosexual woman during this time period are scarce. Romantic relationships between women were — and often still are — misconstrued as passionate friendships. In cases where such friendships were discovered to have a sexual nature to them, legal action was typically not pursued against the offenders. Even if it was, the laws were much more lenient in regards to lesbian behavior. Of course, women were much less able to secure any sort of financial stability for themselves without a husband, so most lesbians chose to marry and carry out their affairs in the most secretive of ways. Only a handful (that we know of) were able to get by without a husband.

 The Ladies of Llangollen were two such women — Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who had a romantic relationship for over 50 years. Defying their families, the two established an estate in Wales, called Plas Newydd, rather than enter into marriages with men they did not love. Though they incurred significant debt in order to have a staff, they survived on the generosity of friends until a fascinated Queen Charlotte convinced King George III to grant them a pension.

Plas Newydd became something of a haven for writers during the Regency era, especially since the couple living there could afford to keep it. Another, even more notable, lesbian of the time was Anne Lister, who was a guest at Plas Newydd on occasion and who kept an explicit diary (in code). She had secured a position amongst the landed gentry, having inherited a good amount of wealth and a manor in Yorkshire called Shibden Hall. Because of her position, she was able to survive securely without ever marrying a man.

Ann Lister (c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Details on transgender individuals are even harder to find. This isn’t just because being transgender was such an unexplored concept at the time, but because there was a lot of cross-dressing that went on for other reasons even though it was highly illegal. There were frequently men who dressed in women’s clothing at molly houses, and these likely were male-to-female transgender folks. Beyond those, however, there were practical reasons. Were women living as men transgender, or simply trying to escape restrictive gender roles? It’s hardly a secret by now that some women entered military service pretending to be men. In 1812, two men dressed as women calling themselves “General Ludd’s wives” led an attack on a factory owner’s home — but this was most likely to obscure their identities rather than because they actually identified as women.

GAIL says: Thank you, Graham!! Fascinating info. We have come a long way from the days of the Regency, at least in some parts of the world, in how we see and treat our LGBT society members. Still a long way to go!

Blog readers, have you read any Regencies with LGBT characters? What do you think about including such historically accurate elements of the time period in stories about romance?



Posted in Guest, History, Regency, Research | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Heiress Stories and a Sale

This month, I’m continuing my series of ebook sales for good causes. The Redwyck Charm is currently on sale for just 99 cents.

Here’s the blurb:

Marcus Redwyck, Earl of Amberley, reluctantly agrees to wed an heiress in order to save his estate. But his equally reluctant bride, Juliana Hutton, runs away and masquerades as an opera dancer. When they meet, passion leads them to the edge of scandal. Even when all is revealed, it will take all of Marcus’s resolution and the fabled Redwyck charm to win the spirited Juliana’s heart.

I realize that it’s a bit of a stretch for a properly raised young woman to impersonate an opera-dancer. I work around that a bit by not having her dance that well! But also I did have some historical justification. In The Mirror of Graces (by a “Lady of Distinction, 1811) I read that young ladies sometimes took ballet-lessons to improve their ballroom performance.

“Extraordinary as it may seem, at a period when dancing is so entirely neglected by men in general, women appear to be taking the most pains to acquire the art. Our female youth are now not satisfied with what used to be considered a good dancing-master; that is, one who made teaching his sole profession; but now our girls must be taught by the leading dancers at the Opera-house.

“The consequence is, when a young lady rises to dance, we no longer see the graceful, easy step of the gentlewoman, but the laboured, and often indelicate exhibitions of the posture-mistress. Dances from ballets are introduced; and instead of the jocund and beautifully-organized movements of hilarity in concord, we are shocked by the most extravagant theatrical imitations. The chaste minuet is banished; and, in place of dignity and ease, we behold strange wheelings on one leg; stretching out the other till our eye meets the garter; and a variety of endless contortions, fitter for the zenana of an eastern satrap, or the gardens of Mahomet, than the ball-room of an Englishwoman of quality and virtue.

“These ballet dances are, we now see, generally attempted. I say attempted, for not one young woman in five hundred can, from the very nature of the thing, after all her study, perform them better than could be done any day by the commonest figurante on the stage. We all know, that, to be a fine opera-dancer, requires unremitting practice, and a certain disciplining of the limbs, which hardly any private gentlewoman would consent to undergo. Hence, ladies can never hope to arrive at any comparison with even the poorest public professor of the art; and therefore, to attempt the extravagancies of it, is as absurd as it is indelicate.”

The picture above is a waltzing scene from La Belle Assemblee, February 1, 1817 which I think clearly shows the influence of opera-dancing on social dances.

This was a fun book to write, definitely in the category of “romp”. It was also a stretch for me to write a heroine like Juliana, who did things I’d never have dared. One reader did complain that Juliana is spoiled. But the way I look at it, even now a woman can be born to wealth and material advantages but still have to fight to determine her own destiny.

When Juliana is faced with the prospect of a marriage of convenience with Marcus, she is finally swayed by the fact that he needs her money to save his estate from falling into the hands of a man who would neglect his tenants for a quick profit. Juliana’s compassion surpasses her personal desires (at the time at least—once she realizes she’s in love with Marcus, it’s all good).

So I think it is fitting to donate the proceeds of this sale to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, dedicated to the “long term health and development needs of Flint children exposed to lead”. If you are not familiar, here is some background on the Flint water crisis and a more recent update.

The ebook version of The Redwyck Charm is on sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

If you’d like to donate directly, go to Flint Kids and just use the “Donate” button.

Do you like “heiress” stories? Do you have any favorites?


Posted in Risky Book Talk | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Voices from Old London

The Strand, with Somerset House and Mary-le-Strand church. Published by Ackerman, 1836 (from Wikipedia)

This year I’m back in Victorian London, and as it so happens I’ve got a couple of new research books, among them Voices from Dickens’ London by Michael Paterson from 2006 (republished as Inside Dickens’ London). Right in the introduction Paterson makes a claim that I found both daring and electrifying:

“The city of Dickens is a place lost to us beyond recall. It is difficult to imagine its dirtiness and dnager and its extremes of wealth and poverty. Its people did not look, speak, smell or behave like us. The ways they dressed, the times at which they ate, the slang they used and the accents in which they talked, the ways in which they worked or celebrated or took their amusements, often bear no resemblance to our experience” (10).

As somebody who has walked through London several times, often with the specific intention tracing the sights and buildings of the early 19th century, I found Paterson’s claim rather outrageous at first. After all, isn’t it our shared human experience that allows us modern readers to connect to characters in the literature of the past as well as to characters in historical fiction?

Today’s London is noisy and dirty and smells of exhaust fumes. Add to that the stink of piss and garbage in the back streets. How much worse could 19th-century London have been? There would have been different smells, of course, not of exhaust fumes, but of horses and…

Open sewers.

Cess pits.

A river that stank to heaven and spread illness and disease.

The smell of this old London, Paterson writes,

“must have been overwhelming. First, there was the smell of coal fires.. The vast forest of reeking chimneys filled the air with smoke, which covered buildings with unsightly layers of soot and left dirty black smuts on clothes and faces. There were the multifarious stenches of industry: breweries, foundries and forges, chemical works and, worse than all of them, tanneries […]. There was also the aroma of horses, on which so much of London’s transport and commerce depended — the smell of a stable multiplied millionfold. There was the scent of hundreds of thousands of people, whose tightly packed lives did not allow them opportunities to keep themselves, their clothes or their homes clean” (18).

And as to the noise —

“However noisy today’s traffic may be, it is insignificant by comparison with the din that filled the city in Dickens’ time. Countless iron-shod wheels rattled all day over cobbled streets behind clopping horses. Shouting was constant as, without any form of traffic control, drivers relied on aggression to push their way through the crush of vehicles. The sounds, thrown back by the walls of narrow streets, was so loud that it would not be possible to hold a conversation on the pavement, nor to leave street-facing windows open in summer” (17).

An exaggeration? Perhaps, for after all, the street sellers were still able to hawk their wares. And there were street musicians, too — Italian boys with barrel organs or harps — and street performers of every kind.

No Big Ben, of course.

Some of the things Paterson considers strange — like the closure of all shops and museums on Sunday — don’t seem quite so strange to those who have a different cultural background than the author (in Germany, shops are closed on Sunday).

And yet, the London that emerges from the pages of Paterson’s book is indeed very different from the London of today. It also differs markedly from the London you get to see in most of those pretty TV adaptations of 19th-century literature (with Dickens adaptation being the big exception).

As the title suggest, Voices from Dickens’ London relies heavily on primary texts by Victorian journalists, authors, and everyday people, which are quoted extensively (though not always quite accurately: ellipses are often unmarked). This makes Paterson’s book both fascinating reading material and a rather fantastic source — one I can highly recommend.

I wrote this post yesterday. Today, London was once again hit by catastrophe: This morning, a devastating fire started in Grenfell Tower in Kensington and killed and injured many people. My thoughts are with all those affected by the fire.

Posted in History, Places, Research | Tagged | Comments Off on Voices from Old London

Celebrate London!

George VI spoke those words in a broadcast on September 23, 1940, during the London Blitz, but are they not as true today?

I wish I were in London today to stand with Londoners, resolute and undismayed.

On Saturday night, June 3, a white van hit pedestrians on London Bridge, then three men got out and stabbed people in Borough Market. Seven people were killed and 48 injured. The police shot and killed the three attackers.

My friend Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours is in London with our friend Denise from the Duke of Wellington Tour. Their Sunday plans were to include  visiting Borough Market. She said on Facebook yesterday that they walked across Waterloo Bridge and that Londoners were out and about.

Resolute and undismayed!

Last May Kristine and I wandered through Borough Market…

It is difficult to believe anyone would want to terrorize such a lively, unique, nurturing place.

The Borough Market dates back to medieval times. During the Regency, the market was an institution of national significance, devoted solely to the fruit and vegetable wholesale trade. Now it offers retail food items from both British traders and International ones.

My heart is there, at Borough Market, today. I know that in no time it will return to its former vitality.

Because that is the spirit of London and Londoners.

Tell me something you love about London! Let’s celebrate the city that features so prominently in our Regency romance novels.

Posted in History, Rant | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion & Mumps (Begging Your Indulgence)

I’ve never missed my Riskies blogging date (except one time we switched dates), and here I am, but I have to tell you I have been sick all month. ALL MONTH!

Rather unbelievably, I came down with the mumps. Yes, I had it as a child (we didn’t have the vaccine for it then), although I had a very light case. My sister had it much worse. Perhaps my case then wasn’t bad enough to give me full immunity, or something. At any rate, an outbreak of it on the state college campus close to where I work apparently spilled a bit into the nearby community, and WHAM!

I will tell you, having mumps at my age is NOT for sissies. Also, when you are that sick, not resting enough can prolong how long it takes to get well (what, you are not writing that down?), and can also lead to secondary infections…..

In my defense, allow me to explain that in my primary day job, I work in a one person church office, and as we are in between pastors at present, there is literally no one else who can do the work. And the work does need to get done. (sigh.) I was good about cleaning the office with Lysol in case anyone else came in there. Obviously I stayed home from Sunday services! But I did get more intentional about balancing work and rest, and I am finally on the mend.

So instead of an interesting research piece, I am begging your indulgence. I know I already announced that The Magnificent Marquess was coming out on May 15, and we only missed that by a couple of days. Not bad all things considered! But I do have buy links to share now. (Print edition is not done yet.)

AMAZON:   http://bit.ly/MagMarquess

B&N:  http://bit.ly/TMagMarq-BN

SMASHWORDS:  http://bit.ly/TMagMarq-Smashwords

I also –tah-dah –issued my first newsletter in literally YEARS. If by any chance you are interested in signing up for future ones (I will only send one out when there is actual news), then here is a link to sign up for that:  http://bit.ly/GEastwoodNews

Did you ever have the mumps? I don’t want to turn this into a rant about why people should vaccinate their children, but OTOH I am pretty steamed about having just lost the entire month of May while being in a lot of pain!! Feel free to reminisce or rant here if you want to.  🙂



Posted in Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment